Brian Flores has done what seems implausible and he’s done it multiple times in his life.
He’s the son of immigrant parents and, I can attest, the immigrant experience in the United States can be rewarding and character building, but also a daily struggle against long odds that bet on failure.
Flores has beaten those immense odds and is an American success story.
On the football field, Flores authored a New England Patriots defense that three weeks ago shut out the prolific Kansas City Chiefs in the first half of the AFC Championship game. And two days ago, he authored a defense that kept the scary-good Los Angeles Rams offense out of the end zone in the Super Bowl.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
And in doing all that he distinguished himself and stepped outside the giant shadow cast by New England coach Bill Belichick.
So Flores is quite familiar tackling the improbable.
Now he must overcome the seemingly impossible.
Flores is the new Miami Dolphins head coach. And his task is to mold a consistent winner out of a franchise that’s failed to reach any sustained excellence for nearly half a century.
That’s the job Flores has agreed to take on. And he did so Monday with all the enthusiasm and impressive manner new Dolphins coaches have shown in introductory press conferences since 1996.
“I do believe if you can get a group of young men to band together, to trust one another, to believe in one another, to practice and prepare at a high level, you’ll win ballgames. Period,” Flores said.
That certainty with which Flores speaks is in part born out of his 15-year experience with the New England dynasty. It’s easy to be confident when you’ve been part of a team that rules the entire Earth.
The challenge will come once Flores’s awesome personal history butts against the Dolphins’ 45-year championship drought. How will Flores reconcile that while also trying to survive the team’s rebuilding plan that could last a season?
Beating those giants will be difficult
But Flores is resolute. He believes he’s ready.
“I think I’ve had a lot of experiences in a lot of different areas of football organizations,” Flores said. “I feel I’ve made an impact and my overall philosophy is to help my players, help my coaches and anyone I’m around become the best version of themselves.
“I think I’ve done that. I think I want to do that on a grander scale. I think I can do that on a grander scale. And hopefully we get that done here.
“I think the future’s bright.”
The question becomes when will that brightness actually kick in? Because, again, the Dolphins are rebuilding.
And so you understand the extent of what that rebuilding means, the Dolphins are rebuilding to the extreme that the early success coaches Tony Sparano and Adam Gase had is regarded as a trap. One to be avoided.
“...We’ve had twice where we’ve had first-year success with new head coaches and then the next couple of years it hasn’t worked and we ended up making changes,” general manager Chris Grier said.
“You should have patience. We want to build this right. We don’t want to go to the playoffs one year and sit back and everyone thinks, ‘Oh, they’re back.’ And then you keep trying to just survive. You want to build this where this is long term and you can win for many years instead of trying to go year to year to fill spots and save jobs.”
Grier is in his 20th season with the Dolphins now. He’s seen new coaches have early success and fade under the pressure of stacking one good season early atop another. And he apparently wants to avoid a repeat for Flores.
“You win and all the fans are like, ‘Oh, we’re going to win.’ And the coaches put pressure on themselves and the front office. ‘Oh, yeah we got to do it and keep this going. This good feeling we have here,’” Grier said.
“And not saying we did, but maybe you take a chance on something instead of building it the right way and things happen. We kind of want this to be built for long-term instead of thinking short-term.”
So what will that mean tangibly? What kind of program will the Dolphins undergo early in the Flores tenure?
“The way I grew up there in New England, never spent huge money on a guy to come in,” Grier said. “Because I rather have three really good players than one great player who may or may not impact what you’re doing.
“I rather have three good players at positions that are going to help the team win. That’s a little bit of it. For me, yeah, you build up your offensive line, your defensive line. You start there. And then you need playmakers who are going to impact players and stuff. It’s just the way I grew up and I believe those ways are how those teams win.”
For a team without an elite quarterback that is about to get rid of its starter Ryan Tannehill, that suggests a period of pain. And Flores realizes there will be some of that.
“Every week we’re going to go out there with the idea that we’re going to win a game.,” Flores said. “So, there’s going to be pain involved in that, too. There’s definitely going to be bumps in the road. There’s no doubt about that.
“In this game there’s ups, there’s downs. That’s part of this game. That’s part of leadership, is dealing with adversity. So there’ll be some pain. We know that. But there’s pain for every team.”
Surviving the pain and emerging out the other side will be a daunting task for the Dolphins’ new coach. It might seem impossible.
But Brian Flores is familiar with overcoming what seems impossible.